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Supply chain: How supplements are produced, from raw materials to consumer shelves
January 1999

Production starts with either mining or growing the materials from which supplements are made. Raw materials manufacturers process these substances to produce component materials. Manufacturers typically buy materials from raw materials manufacturers, blend them, and convert them to a consumable form, such as tablets, capsules, or liquid extracts.

Manufacturers may pack the supplements into containers and label the product, or they may sell their supplements to a repackager who does this task. Therefore, the company listed on a bottle is not necessarily the manufacturer. Instead it may be a private label using their own brand name. This practice is common in many industries, including dietary supplements. Today there are thousands of suppliers of dietary supplements in the United States, only twelve of which do most of the manufacturing.

The manufacturer or repackager may then market the product directly to consumers through channels such as mail catalogs or an Internet website. Alternatively, they may sell their products to resellers -- such as mail order houses, wholesalers, distributors, retailers, and health care providers -- who in turn sell them to consumers or other resellers in the chain.

A single brand name may be produced by more than one manufacturer. This makes tracking of products through the supply chain a bit trickier. Furthermore, in the current rapid growth environment of the dietary supplements industry, large manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies are buying up small manufacturers. Thus the supply chain is often in a state of flux.

Because of these complexities, lot number labeling is the only reliable means of tracking a product. This allows every step of the production process from growing to manufacturing to stocking of store shelves to be tracked. Many dietary supplement manufacturers in the United States use lot numbers and publish their lot tracking process so that the origin of any product can be traced.


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More about asking the supplier:


Supply chain: From raw materials to consumer shelves

Questions to Ask

Raw ingredients

Warehousing and storage

Manufacturing process


Efficacy research

Other considerations

Company background and context


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(c) Copyright 1999-2003 Dietary Supplement Quality Initiative. For permission to reprint, please contact our editor.